Event Summary: ‘The European Problem, the German Question and Anglo-American Solutions’


This is a summary of an event with Brendan Simms, President and Co-Founder of the Henry Jackson Society and of the Project for Democratic Union, on 24 April 2013; it reflects the views expressed by the speaker and not those of the Henry Jackson Society or its staff.

To view the full transcript of the event, click here


Professor Brendan Simms addressed an audience in Parliament on 24 April 2013, on the issue of ‘The European Problem, the German Question and Anglo-American Solutions’. Simms discussed the failure of the Eurozone to establish a single ‘ever closer union’ and shared his vision – the transference of Anglo-American union experience to the Eurozone – as a solution to the problem.

Centrality of Germany to European history

  • Germany played – and continues to play – a central role in Europe: geographically located at the heart of Europe, it ‘is a vital space contested by almost all of the main powers at all times’;
  • Germany’s situation historically affects the balance of European power: when weak and divided Germany attracts the instability from outside, for example during the Thirty Years War; when united and strong, however, Germany becomes so powerful that it dominates and destabilises the European balance of power;
  • European order, therefore, reflects the German question: almost all the European settlements tried in one way or other to contain Germany and/or to protect its resources from outside powers;
  • The aims of the post-war project for European integration are analogous to previous historical settlements: to prevent European states from going to war with one another; to contain Germany; and to mobilise European and military and economy power against a common enemy, in this case the Soviet Union.

Problems within the European project

  • The Eurozone faces substantial problems, including: the economic crisis; the sovereign debt crisis; being a weaker partner for the United States; divisions on political issues; and the lack of an effective decision making body to tackle external threats. Furthermore, the prospect of European fragmentation propels the question of Germany back on the table;
  • “The Primacy for foreign policy” – i.e. an existential threat is often a necessary and sufficient condition to establish a union, for example, both the Anglo-Scottish and the American unions were created in the face of external threats. The compartmentalising of political and economic issues to Europe and security issues to NATO, however, limits the scope for such threats to have a galvanising effect on the European project. Furthermore, NATO success arguably eliminated fundamental integrating forms of the defence;
  • Other pressures, however – the Eurozone Crisis, the threat from Russia, concerns over the validity of NATO’s Article 5, and American turn from Europe towards Pacific – could create the moment to make political transformations.

Proposed European federation

  • The proposed union would follow the form of the Anglo-American constitutional system rather than a model based on the Holy Roman Empire, and include: a directly elected Presidency; a Senate; a popularly elected House of Citizens; a single defence force; pooled state debt as a once off process and then balanced budgets with debt ceilings – all of which would be enforced by an essential authority, responsible however to the joint parliament.
  • The language of the union would be English; those states that wish to be in can be in and those that wish to be out can be out; and those who wish to be out should remain linked to a residual European confederation through a single market will trade arrangements.

Britain’s role in the European project

  • Britain already has a successful union and retains more national sovereignty than Eurozone members; as such, there is arguably no need for Britain to be part of the European project;
  • Disintegration of the Eurozone, however, is contrary to British strategic interest, as it will cause massive short, medium and long-term disruption to the British economy.


Professor Brendan concluded that, “the British and the Americans, their unions made history; if the Eurozone fails to establish similar mighty union, then it will be history too, but not in the way that it had intended”.


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